Let me preface this post by saying: “I’m not for amnesty, just sanity.”
While largely dead for the rest of the 2013-14 congressional calendar, there were some things I personally would have liked to have seen touched in an immigration package or separate bill. (You know, that piecemeal approach talked about, but apparently not going to be tried.)
At the top of that list is “H-1B Visa Reform.”
“H-1B” is, like most visas issued by the State Department, one of a variety of work visas granted to immigrants who are temporary workers inside the United States. H-1B’s are a specialty type of visa which only are available to the following qualifications:
- You must be a foreign national.
- You must have already earned a college degree.
- Said degree must be in a career related to what are called “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields.
The visas last for three years and can be renewed for another three for a total of six years; and with their employers sponsorship, they can gain citize That stay can be up to ten years, only if you are working for a defense contractor. They are highly-coveted by technology firms in Silicon Valley such as Google, IBM, Facebook and Oracle.
Annually, 65,000 new H-1Bs are issued, with an additional 20,000 to eligible immigrants already in the country who getting their college degrees. Estimations are that since the program began around 2,000, over 850,000 H-1Bs have been issued.
So why reform them and what to do? The common answer — accepted on both sides — has been to lift the annual quota. Why? Because the world is a competitive workplace, and despite constant interest in computer sciences and IT, America isn’t generating enough of them fast enough. Also, other nations also have substantial technology sectors themselves and will grab up these wouldbe employees.
In the most recent podcast episode for the center-right website Ricochet, renowned political analyst Michael Barone told a story of how a Canadian diplomat prayed that America didn’t change its immigration policy towards high-skilled workers (the ones sought through the H-1B program) because then all these folks could come to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. British Columbia is well-known to be the high-tech hub matching its neighbors south of the border in Washington State and Silicon Valley.
It is this exact thing which makes the immigration debate as a whole so frustrating. While we’re fighting over what is clearly a horrific Senate bill, both sides need to take a moment, figure out where there is actual consensus on immigration — like visa reform, which has nothing to do with amnesty much if at all — and craft a bill.
Anyone who still demands a full, “comprehensive approach” (Chuck Schumer, I’m looking at you.) should be barred from the room. Hammer out something that works, not just for those getting the H-1Bs’, but for the U.S. economy as well.